Dental Hygiene

Dental Disease and Your Pet

One of the most overlooked aspects in preventative health maintenance is dental care. It is very important to the health of your pet. Dogs and cats do have problems with their teeth. Many of these problems are very slow in onset. Reluctance to eat, odor from the mouth, loss of energy, and reluctance to play are a few signs of possible dental disease. Studies at the Veterinary Colleges of Ohio State and Cornell University have found that 85% of dogs and cats over 6 years old have some form of dental disease.

Dental disease can be put into three categories: tartar, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. Tartar is the accumulation of plaque on the teeth, usually starting at the gumline in conjunction with gingivitis. Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums. You can easily see this by the increase in the pinkness of your pet's gums, especially at the gumline. Periodontal disease is the most serious of the three and is the most common cause of dental problems. 

Dental disease starts as an invisible glycoprotein layer on the tooth surface. Bacteria use this layer to attach to the tooth surface in a substance called plaque. Dead attached bacteria form calculus (also called tartar), which harbors additional bacteria. As these bacteria grow on the surface of the tooth they start to enter the gingival tissues and produce toxins that injure the tissue. This stage is gingivitis. The gingival infection results in a discharge of debris, organisms, and toxins into the blood stream, possibly affecting the liver, heart, lungs, or kidneys. 

As periodontal disease progresses, bacteria enter deeper into the soft tissue and begin invading the periodontium (supporting tissues of the tooth) begins. The bone holding the tooth in place recedes as the inflammatory process progresses. Serious problems occur at this time, resulting in destruction of the periodontium, making the tooth loose and painful. 

Tartar accumulation, gingivitis and periodontal disease all require treatment. Therapy can range from homecare to antibiotics to anesthesia with a complete dental scaling and polishing. If the teeth are severely effected, extraction may be needed. Periodontal therapy can be attempted, but requires much dedication from the pet owner. The appropriate type of treatment is decided upon after oral examination. It is important to treat these conditions because they are actual infections. Dental disease can lead to heart, lung, liver, kidney, skin and prostate infections.

So, the next time you complain of dog breath or cat breath, look into your pet's mouth and then call us for an examination. Let's cure any problems and prevent more serious ones before they start.

Dental Homecare

Prevention and management of dental disease begins at home by training your pet to accept the cleaning of their teeth. Establish a routine of daily brushing your pet’s teeth. CET Toothpaste can be used, and there are several palatable flavors available. First offer your pet a bit of paste on your finger as a treat. Try this several days in a row to establish whether your pet likes the paste. The next step is to use some paste on your finger (or on a Q-tip for cats) and rub one or two teeth. Repeat this daily. When your pet accepts this, rub a few more teeth at each session, until you are “brushing” the entire upper arcade at each session. Next, try wrapping your finger with some gauze. Moisten this, add some paste and “brush” a few teeth at a time (skip this for cats.). The next step is to use a pet tooth brush or finger brush.

An alternative way to get your pet used to tooth brushing, is to use a beef or chicken broth solution or water with a small amount of garlic powder added. Pet toothpaste can be used with this training method also. Without restraint, allow the pet to lick the brush 3 – 5 times per day. Once the licking is established, try brushing the teeth, as the pet licks the brush. Gradually, as familiarity with the brush is established, you can start restraining and more vigorous brushing. If you can’t brush your pet's teeth at home, let us know, we will be happy to give you additional brushing instructions.

While not a complete substitute for brushing, T/D Diet (Hills) has been proven to decrease the rate of calculus and plaque formation. Please discuss this with our staff or your veterinarian if you are interested in trying a dietary approach in the control of calculus and plaque build-up. 

Home oral hygiene is important to maintain your pet's dental heath between professional cleaning. The frequency of professional cleaning will vary with your pet's individual needs.